Articles Posted in Asbestos Litigation

Alfred Bennett and his wife filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. on behalf of Alfred who had been a mechanic there. He claimed he was exposed to asbestos in handling auto parts. This case was tried in the City of St. Louis, 22nd Judicial Circuit. The jury’s verdict of Aug. 30, 2019 was for $5.725 million in actual damages to Alfred and $708,000 to his wife and $2 million in punitive damages.

Bennett was a mechanic at Ford, Mercury and Lincoln dealerships from the 1960s until the 1980s.

During those decades, he came into regular contact with brakes, gaskets, clutches and original equipment manufacturer replacement parts, which allegedly exposed him to asbestos.

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St. Louis City Circuit Court judge refused to grant Johnson & Johnson’s motions following the July 13, 2018 jury verdict of $4.7 billion against Johnson & Johnson for injuries suffered by 22 women. This verdict was the largest by far against Johnson & Johnson in cases against it brought by women who have claimed that ovarian cancer was caused by use of the baby powder. The St. Louis City Circuit Court Judge Rex Burlison concluded in his opinion that there was “substantial evidence” to support the $550 million in compensatory damages and that punitive damages that totaled more than $4 billion were constitutional.

Judge Burlison added: “First, substantial evidence was adduced at trial of particularly reprehensible conduct on the part of defendants (Johnson & Johnson and others), including that defendants knew of the presence of asbestos in products that they knowingly targeted for sale to mothers and babies, knew of the damage their products caused, and misrepresented the safety of these products for decades.” The judge also said, “Second, defendants’ actions caused significant physical harm and potential physical harm, including causing ovarian cancer in plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ decedents.”

Judge Burlison also noted that the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act was a law that also provided for potential penalties against Johnson & Johnson.

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In 1959 George Lucas started working as a longshore laborer and clerk at various San Francisco Bay-area piers where ships were loaded and unloaded with cargo.

Reportedly during his breaks, he would venture into the ship’s engine rooms to stay warm.  Often, employees of shipyard contractor Triple A Machine Shop Inc. were in the same engine rooms removing and replacing asbestos-containing insulation, gaskets and packing.

The work that he was doing exposed him to substantial amounts of asbestos dust. His bystander exposure from Triple A employees’ work continued until 1986.

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In December 2016, Arlin Campbell was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a disease attributable to exposure to asbestos. On May 4, 2017, Campbell, an Alabama resident, filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleging that his cancer (mesothelioma) was caused by his exposure to asbestos while working jobs in Illinois, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas between 1961 and 1999.

He named more than 50 companies as defendants. Among his several allegations, Campbell claimed that his exposure to asbestos involved products “manufactured, sold, distributed or installed” by the General Electric Co.  Campbell’s sole period of employment in Illinois was when he worked for Republic Steel in Chicago from 1964 through 1965.

General Electric moved to dismiss the case against it noting that in Campbell’s complaint, he did not specifically allege that he encountered asbestos from GE products while working at Republic Steel. GE argued that Campbell failed to allege sufficient facts to grant the court personal jurisdiction and noted that it did not consent to the court’s jurisdiction.

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The on-the-job exposure to asbestos experienced by Ronnie Startley occurred in Alabama. Startley was a drywall finisher. However, for 3 to 4 months in 1965, he worked on approximately 50 jobs in Chicago with his cousin, Walter Startley. The Startleys used several brands of drywall joint compound that contained asbestos. Startley was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013; he died a year later in Alabama. The Alabama statute of limitations blocked Startley’s estate’s claims there.

According to Walter Startley’s testimony, during an evidence deposition in the Illinois lawsuit that Ronnie’s estate filed against Welco Manufacturing Co., the manufacturer of Well-Coat, the joint compound they used for Chicago projects in 1965 were “USG, Gold Bond, Best Wall, and Wel-Coat.” He added, “Wel-Coat and Best Wall was the most we used.”

When Walter was asked whether he could recall having more jobs with “one product more than the other,” Walter said, “Well, I really can’t, because that’s a long time ago, but I remember the bags was being like gray-looking stuff and I imagine it would be Wel-Coat or Best Wall.”

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Dennis Seay worked for Daniel Construction Co., which was a contractor for Celanese Corp. From 1971 through 1980, he did maintenance work at the Celanese polyester fiber plant located in Spartanburg, S.C. Seay was exposed to asbestos-containing products while working at Celanese. The different jobs that Seay had included handling various brands of gaskets, packing and insulation manufactured by John Crane Inc. and others for use on and in equipment throughout the Celanese plant.

In 2013, Seay at age 69 was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Seay underwent 3 procedures to reduce the size of his tumor and multiple procedures to drain fluid from his lung, which had collapsed on various occasions. Seay unfortunately died the following year at age 70. He was survived by his wife, two adult sons and one adult daughter.

Seay’s daughter, individually and on behalf of his estate and his wife, sued Celanese Corp. alleging that the company was aware of exposure to asbestos products used throughout the plant but chose not to warn of the dangers or to take other steps to protect workers like Seay. The Seay family contended that Celanese was in complete control of the plant and was responsible for auditing the safety program provided by Seay’s employer to ensure that it was adequate.

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There were eight cases, all involving claims by or on behalf of the estates of now deceased former workers of the defendant Weyerhaeuser Co. The former workers had claimed that their nonoccupational exposure to asbestos was the cause of their injuries and subsequent deaths.

Weyerhaeuser operated a door manufacturing facility in Marshfield, Wis., from 1960 to 2000. It was there that the company manufactured wood products with multiple operations and divisions on that site. The defendant manufactured a door containing asbestos in the plant from 1968 until it stopped using asbestos in 1978.

The evidence in these cases showed that asbestos dust was emitted from the Weyerhaeuser plant. It was also shown that Weyerhaeuser hauled asbestos dust and scrap waste through landfills into the surrounding community. All of the eight plaintiffs in the case were employed by Weyerhaeuser at the Marshfield plant during the relevant time period assigned to varying job duties.

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James Folta was diagnosed with mesothelioma 41 years after he was alleged to have been exposed to asbestos fibers while working for Ferro Engineering.

Because Section 6(c) of the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act bars asbestos claims unless they are filed with the workers’ compensation commission within 25 years of the last on-the-job exposure to asbestos, Folta’s only ground for recovering from Ferro was to argue that the exclusive-remedies provisions in the Workers’ Compensation Act and the occupational diseases statute do not apply on the grounds that his injury was “not compensable.”

The Illinois Supreme Court explained in Meerbrey v. Marshall Field & Co., 139 Ill.2d 455 (1990), that the exclusive-remedy section of the compensation statute does not bar a tort case against an employer if “the employee-plaintiff proves: (1) that the injury was not accidental; (2) that the injury did not arise from his or her employment; (3) that the injury was not received during the course of employment; or (4) that the injury was not compensable under the act.” Meerbrey, 139 Ill.2d at 463, citing Collier v. Wagner Castings, 81 Ill.2d 229 (1980).

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The 4th District of the Illinois Appellate Court in the case of a former railroad employee, James Smith, reversed the jury’s verdict finding that the trial judge had been wrong in preventing the defendant from presenting evidence regarding the plaintiff’s prior work history.

Smith was a former railroad employee of the Illinois Central Railroad who sued it for breach of duty to provide employees with a safe place to work under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.

Smith was exposed to dust as a result of the use of asbestos products at the railroad yard, which included exposure to dust from the neighboring facility that made asbestos insulation. Smith had worked three months at the neighboring asbestos plant before he came to work for Illinois Central Railroad. He left that job because he said it was dirty.

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John Blommer worked as an apprentice carman repairing railroad cars for Great Northern Railway, which was the predecessor to BNSF Railway Co. He started working at the railroad in 1953 and worked for several months before joining the U.S. Army. He returned to the railroad after his military service and then left his employment in 1956 to work at the U.S. Postal Service. In all, Blommer worked for the railroad for a total of nearly 26 months. During that time, he was exposed daily to asbestos from various products he handled. Asbestos was found to be included in pipe wrapping, insulation, raw asbestos fibers and other asbestos-containing products.

In 2010, Blommer, then age 78, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He underwent chemotherapy treatments and talc pleurodesis, which is a procedure in which fluid is drained from the lining of the lungs; then the ribcage and lining are scraped and filled with a talc product to glue the lungs to the ribcage. The purpose is to prevent the fluid from returning. After about two years, the fluid did return and Blommer underwent additional chemotherapy until the treatments were no longer effective.

Blommer sued BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) claiming that the railroad chose not to provide a safe workplace by protecting employees from asbestos exposure.

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